Things Your Military Recruiter Won't Tell You
Don't stay in the dark about the things your military recruiter won't tell you before you get shipped off to basic.
Military recruiters, like any profession, are a mixed bag. Some, most even, will do their best to answer your questions honestly and give you the most accurate picture of the military that they can provide. Others, however, are ill equipped to answer all of your questions, and you may not know what questions to ask. Furthermore, some recruiters are apt to bend the truth, and are more inclined to feed you lies to fill their quotas. To that end, there are strictly some things your military recruiter won't tell you, or can't tell you, that you should keep in mind as you decide whether or not to enlist.
They won't tell you whether or not you're really cut out for it.
A huge portion of new recruits don't make it through their commitment, dropping out for reasons that range from medical problems to simple laziness. For many of these drop-outs, part of the equation is a mismatch between expectations and reality, being poorly prepared for the life they're taking on. Sometimes, this seems to be the fault of the recruiter, whose job it is, in part, to convince you to join. There are two reasons your real likelihood of making it in the military might be among the things your military recruiter won't tell you: First, they may lie in order to convince to enlist. More likely though, they are simply not equipped to know how you'll do and if you're really cut out for the military. It's the recruit's responsibility, not the recruiter, to be prepared and make an educated decision. The military recruiter is looking for traits in potential soldiers, but they are just one resource to help educate your decision of whether or not to join.
They won't make you any real promises.
Military recruiters can't guarantee you anything. The best they can do is tell you how things are likely to go down, and how likely that likelihood is. In the end, it's your contracts that will determine what you can expect from joining the military. There are also two different contracts to differentiate between. First, there is the DEP contract, or Delayed Enlistment Program. This contract is for inactive military members, and is in place until such a time comes that you're called to active duty. Then, you will sign a final contract. Your military recruiter can be a great resource, and a good recruiter can offer you a good picture of your future, but the recruiter cannot actually guarantee you anything. Promises are only binding if they're in your enlistment contracts.
They cannot tell you what to do about your education.
The military offers a lot of education benefits and programs, but the actual details of programs and policies like those outlined in the G.I. Bill may be among the things your military recruiter won't tell you. The G.I. Bill offers significant education benefits to active duty service members, but it also means a cut in your military pay. This is not something you can then get back if you do not continue with the military, so you should weigh your education decisions and options carefully. A minimum of two years of active service is generally required, or a four year reserve contract. There are also some options open to those who are honorably discharged, giving you the option to make use of the education benefits within the next 10 years.
Recruiters won't necessarily tell you what branch is right for you.
Some decisions you'll just have to make on your own. Before you even speak to a military recruiter, you'll need to make some decisions about which branch of service you'd like to go into. Qualifications and career potential are two major things to consider when choosing a branch, as they differ pretty substantially between each military service. Making the decision between the Marine Corps and the Air Force is one that a recruiter may be able to help you with, by providing information; but ultimately, that kind of decision will be up to you to research and decide.
You're [just?] a number.
One of the most significant things your military recruiter won't tell you is that, at the end of the day, you are a number. Recruiters are given broad projected requirements which they need to fill with qualified volunteers. This means that their job is, in part, to sell you on joining the military. Now, in the worst case scenario, this means they may be inclined to stretch the truth or lie outright in order to convince you to join. This is, of course, officially banned. However, it's difficult to enforce, and the pressures to bring more volunteers into the fold can be pretty high, especially at certain times or years where enlistment has been low or need has been higher than usual.
Basic training is brutal.
We've all heard horror stories about basic training/boot camp. Your military recruiter will most likely wave off any concerns that potential recruits may have, and say that basic training is actually pretty easy. Just follow instructions, work hard, and get it done.
Actually, he's right. The reason that this is one of the things your military recruiter won't tell you is that it really isn't true. Yes, basic training can be brutal in its way, but most recruits agree that it's not so bad. Some even look on it with a fond nostalgia, or so I hear. Rest assured though, if you're committed to joining the military, you can learn how to survive basic training.
They won't tell you when you'll get your bonus.
A lot of military recruiters like to play up the bonus. For good reason, too—everyone loves being handed several thousand dollars at once. However, the myth of the bonus is actually a much more complex one than many military personnel may have you think. First of all, your military recruiter cannot make you any guarantees on when such bonuses may be processed and actually received by you. So counting on that kind of payout for financial purposes is never a good idea. Furthermore, a lot of the commitments that offer huge bonuses do so for a reason: No one wants the job. You should consider your sanity and career desires above the money, as you'll lose both if you commit to something you find yourself unable to follow through on.
Recruiters won't tell you what military healthcare really gets you.
There are also a lot of myths about healthcare in the military, and it's important to understand exactly what you do and don't get with these benefits. One thing that recruiters and advertisements for the military often say is that you get "free healthcare for life." In a country where healthcare is one of the most significant concerns for many people long term, this sounds pretty hard to pass up. However, it's important to realize the limitations of this healthcare. The biggest limitation is that it only applies to military hospitals, which offer services to military members and their dependents as space and time allow. These days, that's not enough space and time for everyone who might need care, and so most military members will need outside care, paying out-of-pocket for care they thought would be covered.
Recruiters won't tell you where you'll be stationed.
The military does take your preferences into account, but your assignment is not up to you or your recruiter. While most recruiters will try to be honest with you about where you might end up, the truth is, they don't know and neither can you. Some less honorable recruiters may play up the 'preferences' angle to try and hook you, making it sound like you'll be assigned where you want to be. In reality, the military has to assign you where you're most needed, even if that doesn't align perfectly with your dreams and preferences. Before signing up, be sure you're prepared to follow through on your assignment, even if it's one of the things your military recruiter won't tell you about.
They won't tell you if you're ready.
Your military recruiter isn't your conscience, or your parent, or your therapist. They don't know everything about you. At the end of the day, neither they, nor anyone else, can tell you if you're ready to join the military. There are things you should know before meeting a military recruiter, you should have as many specific questions in mind as you can, and you should take away the learned information from your meeting and combine it with outside knowledge and research to best inform your decision. If your recruiter says they're sure you'll do fine, or even great, they may be right. They may also be wrong—after all, they don't really know you.